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stories from our missional partners

Tia stands in front of a Japanese shrine

By Nicole

Truth be told, Japan was never a country that was on my radar. I had always known that at some point in my life I wanted to explore East Asia, but for me that meant South Korea.

After spending the last two years working with international students and their families and absolutely loving it, I reached out to the SIM office in my home country to inquire about ESL summer opportunities. Through my conversation with SIM, Japan was brought to my attention. They informed me about a summer opportunity to be a part of a team that would work alongside and support a few local churches in the prefecture of Yamagata. Conversing with Japanese nationals in English would be one of the outreach methods used to connect with local communities. I was also informed of another ESL summer opportunity in an African nation. As I looked into both locations, I prayed and asked God for direction and asked others to pray for me as well. Within a few short weeks, I found out that the summer opportunity in the African country was no longer possible. One door had closed, and yet, another door remained open. 

I was the last member to join our summer team, with only 3 months to prepare before departure. I didn’t know the Japanese language or culture, didn’t grow up on anime or manga, and I certainly was unaware of Japan’s spiritual climate. By the time of departure however, and thanks to our amazing team leader, Bethany Ho, I had a better understanding of Japan’s spiritual climate and worldview. I could now do a very simple self-introduction and I knew a few basic Japanese phrases. 

The learning continued once our team landed in Japan. Robert Adair, country director for A3, greeted us at the airport and gave us a valuable in-country orientation, as well as escorted our team to our destination in Yamagata. Although there is so much that I could share with you about my time in Japan this summer – the beauty of the country, my first onsen experience, a public transportation system that can get you just about anywhere – there are 3 areas in particular that I would like to share. 


Spiritual Climate 

Due to Japan’s geographical proximity to South Korea, I assumed that the spiritual climate in Japan was about the same as South Korea. This is not the case! Japan is open to the gospel, and yet, less than 1% of the Japanese nationals who call this island home are Christian. I am very perplexed and burdened by this reality. This means there are many, many Japanese who are living and dying without Christ, with very little to no witness to the gospel message (Romans 10:14- 15). Truly, the harvest is plentiful for Japan! 


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Sacrificial Giving & Hospitality 

My heart was deeply moved by one particular Japanese pastor and his wife, along with another Japanese couple from the same church – for their love for Jesus, their community, and for fellow Christians. My team was there to serve, and yet it was my team who was being served by both couples – with such joy and grace! Even in their older age, they still made themselves available to serve the Lord with what they had and carried out His work (1 Corinthians 15:58/Galatians 6:9-10). I later found out from other teammates that I was not the only one deeply touched by both couples’ sacrificial giving and hospitality. 


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Cross-Cultural Team 

I have always enjoyed and thrived in working and living cross-culturally. My summer team was a mix of nationalities, cultures, and ethnicities. This kind of team diversity was also reflected in the SIM/A3 team serving in Yamagata as well, which was wonderful to see! 

During Jesus’ high priestly prayer concerning believers, He prayed: “I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23). Our unity as believers is a testament to the world! When the world sees individuals of diverse backgrounds working together in love and unity, they can’t help but take notice. 


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Now What?

It has been several weeks now since I arrived back home. The jet lag is behind me, and I have been doing a lot of processing and praying over all I have learned since returning from Japan. I have had a number of opportunities to share with others about my time in Japan this summer. I am incredibly grateful for all the support I received from my SIM home office, A3 missional partners, and my prayer support team back home. Were there challenges along the way? Of course, but the support and prayers from others, and God challenging my own heart at times, got me through those challenges. Since my return back home, many have asked me if this summer is it for me and Japan or if I plan on returning. The truth is, although I don’t know what’s next for me and Japan, I know that whatever comes next, it will not end with this summer. I continue to lean into God for direction. 

The fact still remains that too many Japanese are living and dying without a Christian witness or a clear presentation or understanding of the gospel message. Prior to this year, I could say that I didn’t know about this present reality for Japan – but now I do.    



Tia Blassingame Nicole had her first encounter with the Land of the Rising Sun during the summer of 2023, while serving on an A3 j-Team in the Yamagata Prefecture.  During this time, she was captivated by the beauty of the land and the friendliness of the people.  It is her hope that her first encounter with Japan will not be her last.  


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